The crew of a cruise ship has saved 6 men from a leaky Tongan fishing boat yesterday afternoon, who had not had water for 3 days.
New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Centre organised for the German cruise ship Albatros to change course at 5 a.m. yesterday morning, after the fishing vessel crew set off an emergency rescue beacon 400 km south-west of Tonga.
The ship diverted 300 km to help the distressed 11.5 metre fishing vessel. RCCNZ also requested an RNZAF P3 Orion to fly from Whenuapai to the position that the beacon was transmitting from.
The Airforce crew dropped emergency equipment and a radio to the boat crew, who were then able to communicate that they could not start their motor due to a flat battery, says Senior Search and Rescue Officer Ramon Davis.
But when the Albatros rendezvoused with the fishing vessel about 2.30 p.m., crew jumped into the water to swim to the ship. Their fishing boat had been taking on water and was unlikely to remain afloat for more than 24 hours. The crew had also run out of drinking water.
MS Albatros crew helped transfer the men aboard the larger vessel, which is now bound for Auckland. A day in the Bay of Islands has been lost for the cruise passengers due to diverting to the rescue.
While the fishing boat was not carrying adequate radio equipment, its EPIRB rescue beacon enabled the crew to call for help.
UPDATE: On February 6, 2017, MS Albatros arrived in New Zealand with 6 rescued Tongan fishermen.